Having the notorious status of being the ‘deadliest disease in the developed world’, cancer unscrupulously affects thousands of people across the globe each year.
In 2021, it is estimated that cancer will be responsible for one in six deaths, making it the second most common cause of death globally (WHO, 2020). In Australia alone, it is estimated that one in two men and women will be diagnosed with the disease by the age of 85 (ACC, 2021).
We often find ourselves questioning why we haven’t found a cure or a successful treatment for the more common and aggressive forms of cancer. In truth, there are several nuances to these questions. The difficultly of treating cancer is the fact that it is no longer considered a single disease. Like an invading military force, cancer has an army of ‘soldiers’, all with different abilities, characteristics and weaknesses.
In total, there are more than 100 different types of cancers. The disease is also caused by a plethora of factors and can manifest differently in each patient, meaning there is no singular plan of attack, or treatment can prevent it from decimating healthy cells and organs.
The advance of modern medicine has brought with it the accumulation of therapeutic and biological knowledge, as well as the advent of genetics and molecular cell biology. This has led to a better understanding of cancer as a disease. More recently, the burgeoning of bioinformatic techniques and proteomic studies have given scientists a glimpse of cellular factors that are responsible for the genesis of cancerous phenotypes in patients, allowing for more opportune insight into how to win the war against cancer. Despite our increase in knowledge about cancer, it continues to claim the lives of thousands of patients each year, as current treatment options prove to be ineffective. Whilst there is a myriad of reasons for this, let us delve into three:
- Drug resistance,
- Metastasis; and
- The cytotoxicity of chemotherapies.
Drug resistance is one of the biggest problems with current therapies and is known to cause 90% of cancer-related deaths. Normal stem cells undergo processes of differentiation, repair and self-renewal during their life span. This is because they have developed unique adaptative mechanisms allowing them to protect themselves from harmful xenobiotic agents. It is evidenced that cancer cells maintain this same property. This means that despite the best efforts to combat cancer, current therapeutics often fail to slow or halt the disease.
At the cancer cell level, some resistance mechanisms can include mutations to the drug target, increased drug efflux, as well as the evasion of tumour suppression and cell death, all of which limit the effectiveness of the treatment. This is the case for platinum-based chemotherapies such as cisplatin and carboplatin which have proven to be highly ineffective when overcoming drug resistance. However, almost half of chemotherapy patients continue to be treated with platinum-based drugs which often leads to treatment being halted due to platinum-based resistance and subsequent toxicity.
The metastatic nature of cancer is one of the main sources of difficulty with cancer treatment. Once cancer has spread from its origin or primary site, it becomes metastatic by local means via the circulatory or lymphatic system.
Metastasis primarily occurs due to the asymptomatic nature of certain cancers which often prolong diagnosis of the disease, allowing the cancer to spread throughout the patient’s body. Because of this, the tumour cells are harder to target with radiotherapy and conventional surgery due to their anatomically diffuse localisation around the body. What is more, metastatic treatment often destroys healthy cells in the process.
Cytotoxic Effects of Chemotherapy
According to clinical studies, 86% of patients experience side effects from traditional chemotherapy treatment. This is because chemotherapeutic agents are unable to distinguish between healthy and cancerous cells, unleashing a cytotoxic effect on both cells indiscriminately. As such, the ‘cancer war zone’ is characterised by cytotoxicity, exposing patients to many deadly side effects.
Specifically, patients are likely to experience hair loss, bleeding, constipation, fever, nausea and loss of appetite. In 27% of these cases, chemotherapy side effects have caused, or hastened death for the patient.
How we Plan to Combat the Problems with Today’s Cancer Treatments
For many cancer patients, drug resistance and severe toxic side effects from traditional cancer treatments, such as platinum-based chemotherapy, means many patients have no alternative but to cease therapy.
At OncoTEX Inc. we are on a mission to transform cancer therapy with TEX Core, a first-in-class oncology drug platform with the ability to develop a pipeline of novel oncology compounds. The cancer-fighting compounds have shown the ability to overcome drug resistance and target only solid tumours, avoiding damage to healthy tissues.
OxaliTEX is the first oncology drug candidate to be developed from the TEX Core platform. The lead indication for OxaliTEX is ovarian cancer, which is the number one cause of gynaecological cancer deaths globally.
With the ability to kill cancer cells, even in platinum-resistant tumours, preclinical data has shown OxaliTEX provides new hope for ovarian cancer patients.
About OncoTEX Inc.
OncoTEX Inc. is an oncology company and member of The iQ Group Global bioscience investment enterprise The iQ Group Global. OncoTEX Inc. owns TEX Core, a novel oncology drug platform that enables the development of well-tolerated, MRI-detectable cancer therapeutics that target drug-sensitive and drug-resistant solid tumours. Find out more
OxaliTEX is a conjugate of oxaliplatin – a well-established platinum-based chemotherapy drug – and a tumour localising metallotexaphyrin for targeted drug delivery to cancerous tumours. Preclinical studies show OxaliTEX targets solid tumour cells, activates within tumours and overcomes multi-factorial drug resistance mechanisms with minimal adverse effects and so is shown to be superior to traditional platinum-based chemotherapy drugs. Read more
About The iQ Group Global
The iQ Group Global is a consortium of companies that finds, funds and develops bioscience discoveries to create life-changing medical innovations. Find out more